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UAE: Wear masks even while in countries with relaxed Covid-19 rules, say docs

SM Ayaz Zakir/Dubai
Filed on July 30, 2021
Reuters

It is recommended for residents travelling abroad to follow the measure to curb the spread of the virus.


Doctors in the UAE have urged residents to remain masked even when travelling to countries that have relaxed Covid regulations and protocols. Wearing a mask has been a strict mandate in many countries; a few nations had loosened their rules but have reintroduced it.

Dr Raza Siddiqui, Executive Director, Ras Al Khaimah Hospital said: "Masks alongside vaccinations are essential in curbing the spread of the virus. Even though masking is not mandatory in many countries, it is still recommended."

He believes it is too early to ditch the mask, and there is a lot of merit in wearing one. It is the only way to protect oneself even when travelling to countries with relaxed Covid-19 rules. "We must remember, rule or no rule, masks can go a long way in protecting us from the infection," he added.

Dr Fiaz Ahamed MD, Infection Control Physician at the Thumbay University Hospital in Ajman said that one must remain masked for one's own protection. "Everyone shows a different response to vaccination in terms of developing antibodies. We are all aware that the Covid-19 virus is mutagenic and the new strains are very much pathogenic and infectious. So it is safe and mandatory to be masked."

Masks no longer mandatory

Wearing face masks is no longer mandatory for people in a few countries, but they are still advised to wear them in crowded spaces.

For instance, in England people do not have to wear masks and almost all Covid-19 restrictions have been lifted.

Sweden has not imposed a full lockdown but advised residents to be masked during rush hour on public transport. The mask mandate ended on July 1.

China, the country where it all began, is now a mask-free nation. It was one of the worst-affected in the initial days of the pandemic but the government was quick in controlling the situation with stringent lockdowns.

Jacinda Ardern, Prime Minister of New Zealand, received praise from all over the world for making the country Covid-free when many nations suffered the second wave.

Hungary relaxed the rules on face masks, with hospitals being the exception. People are advised to wear a mask according to their preferences.

Italy was the first European country to be hit by the pandemic in February 2020. It experienced a peak in deaths, but the infection was curbed, and it became a mask-free and low-risk coronavirus zone in June.

Countries that took a U-turn on mask obligation

Many countries ended obligatory mask-wearing outdoors, but due to a rise in infection, reintroduced them to curb the spread.

For instance, Israel ended obligatory mask-wearing but took a U-turn and imposed wearing masks indoors amid a rise in cases.

The South Korean government announced in June that partially inoculated people would be allowed to go mask-free outdoors, but before the rule could be implemented, it reversed the decision and urged everyone to wear masks indoors and outdoors. It also raised social distancing measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

France ended the obligatory mask rule in June but saw a surge in the number of positive cases linked to the Delta variant of Covid. Local authorities have imposed their own rules on masks in the outdoors.

Similarly, in Australia, regional rules on masks have been tightened since the sharp increase in the number of cases.

The Czech Republic managed the spread of the coronavirus early in the pandemic. The government lifted the requirement to wear masks in public in May last year. But as the numbers shot up, the mask was made mandatory in a few places, including public transport and hospitals. Then, at the end of February this year, the authorities made respirator masks or two surgical masks mandatory.

Medicos believe that the UAE has done a great job of achieving the status of the most vaccinated country in the world. But since the majority of people across the globe are yet to be vaccinated, the UAE is quite far from any kind of herd immunity.

"We are still in the midst of the pandemic with new variants emerging and cases are rising in many places," said Dr Siddiqui. "Hence, it's only wise to still follow all the Covid protocols even if you have taken both doses of the vaccine. When travelling, it's necessary to safeguard yourself and be extra vigilant despite being vaccinated."





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